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  Labour - how will I know?
Every woman's experience is different. So an exact checklist for early labour is not really possible.
However, awareness of the following labour signs will help you feel more prepared.

Approaching labour signs could include (but not always)
• A lightness of being. As your baby's head starts to drop towards the pelvic birth position, you feel lighter and you can breathe more deeply. You might even notice a small weight loss (1kg).

• Change in mood and energy levels; either a surge of energy; a compelling need to clean your house! Or a deep, deep feeling of exhaustion.

• You find it more difficult to walk, and have to resort to the pregnancy waddle-shuffle.

• You wee more frequently; your tummy is upset; loose bowels.

• You find it difficult to sleep.

How will I know when I'm in labour?

The first signs of pre-labour or early labour include:
• A mucous "show". The thick brownish mucous plug that blocks the neck of the womb during pregnancy passes out of the vagina. This could mean labour is imminent or still a few days away. You could decide to wait until your waters break or you have regular back pains before you call the hospital or midwife (see next two items).

• Your waters break. The bag of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby breaks and shows either as a gush or a trickle of liquid. Wear a sanitary towel to absorb the flow and call the hospital immediately even if you do not yet have contractions, as you do not want to risk

• The start of contractions. A dull backache, shooting pains down your thighs, or menstruation-type stomach contractions. Check with your doctor who might advise that unless the contractions are frequent (every 5 minutes) or you are in severe pain, you might choose not to go to the hospital immediately. In this case, it is important to stay calm and relaxed to help your body in its release of oxytocin, the hormone that helps with cervical dilation during birth. Move around gently, rest, relax in a warm bath, have a light snack, watch a favourite film. Sometimes contractions start and stop. Keep moving – in time they will get going again.

See also:
Braxton Hicks: you could be having contractions and not be in real labour
False labour
Labour and birth - introduction
Stages of labour
Labour: when to call the doctor

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